Eventually I made it home. At the time I was living in a tiny house built for cotton mill families way back when. I had two housemates, a guy and girl and several filthy animals. Sometimes I’d make up different scenes in my head of the way in which the space was occupied in years past. Like children running around and playing, with smells of home-cooked meals throughout. Back when the fire place wasn’t filled in with concrete. Now there was a bong sitting in the middle of the living room surrounded by an assortment of beer cans and stains from 3 years worth of parties and mismatched sofas taken over by the damn animals. I just had one cat that stayed in my room. I somewhat haphazardly installed a kitty door into a pane of my window for her. One roommate had 2 huge mutts and a snake, the other had a Yorkie, one of those fits-in-your-purse dogs. Sometimes I’d lie around and think about the boa constricting itself around that perpetually yappy, overly small dog. The mutts weren’t so bad, just filthy.
But overtime this house had become my home. My rent was cheap and there was a quality I’d grown used to about the place that was stable and not necessarily bad. I had no real expectations for anything better anytime soon, and that was just kind of fine with me.
I walked in the door. There were a couple of random people sleeping on our floor. I intentionally walked loudly past them. I didn’t like people hanging around our place all morning. I wish I hadn’t stomped though, because the movements shot up into my head and brought me back into reality after that very dazed walk home. I really felt like hell.
I walked down the hall that opened into the living room and kitchen and led back to our bedrooms and bath. I gently turned the doorknob to my roommate Kate’s room. We’d been friends since middle school. At that point we barely knew each other anymore and even hated each other a little, like so many other house mates who were once best friends. I tiptoed in. She and some guy she was dating were sprawled out naked fast asleep in the bed. We didn’t have AC so the guy was using no covers, Sarah was half covered by a sheet. The guy wasn’t unattractive; maybe a little hairy for my taste but otherwise a looker. Still catching site of his stupid looking limp dick and the absurd open mouthed expression on his face made me kind of angry and grossed out. I don’t know what made me stop and stare at him. I should’ve just dashed to get her phone as quickly and quietly as possible. Instead I stood there and starred up and down the body of that dumb-looking sleeping person. His face looked beyond relaxed as if he was getting a blowjob in a dream or something. It made me really uncomfortable and kind of spiteful. I also hated him for not trimming his pubes because it stimulated my churning stomach to relieve itself. I bent over into a half fetal, standing pose before I was conscious of what I was about to do. I vomited all over Kate’s floor.
The sounds produced by my puking woke Kate up. She sat up as quickly as possible and grabbed for blankets as though I hadn’t already seen her in the buff a zillion times.
“What the fuck are you doing in here Lizzy? Get the hell out!”
“Sorry! I just came into borrow your phone.”
She started putting covers over the guy too, as if I was just going to jump him then and there. “Seriously, it’s kind of an emergency. I really need to borrow your phone.”
“I can’t believe you don’t have a goddamn cell phone Lizzy.” She grabbed her phone off of her bedside table. She probably would’ve chucked it at me had she not been so addicted to that damn iPhone. I came over to the side of her bed to retrieve it, feeling a little guilty for not really feeling guilty.
“Damn it Lizzy. You’re going to get fired again. You can’t keep calling into work. You’re a fucking loser. Now get the hell out of my room!”
“Do you want me to clean up the puke?” I asked
“God I don’t know…Just go get some of your own towels and I’ll deal with it.”
I grabbed some dank smelling towels from my bedroom floor, cracked open Kate’s door and without looking, I just thrust them in there and quickly shut the door. Then I rushed to the bathroom, lifted the lid to the toilet kneeled down on my knees and began dry heaving and eventually threw up a bunch of clear liquid. I don’t think I’d eaten since lunch on the previous day.
I rested my forehead on the bare rim of the toilet and sat with my legs crisscrossed and my arms curled around my waste. The nausea settled a little. I was able to recover my senses after zoning out for probably twenty minutes or so. I glanced upward and saw Kate’s phone lying on the sink counter. I still needed to call the cops about that stabbing. It seemed like it happened so long ago that I barely even felt like a witness. It was as if I’d heard about it on the news, imagined the scene in my head in a vague way, and that was the only connection I had to the incident. Still, I was a witness, even if my report of the incident was going to be terribly inaccurate and unhelpful. But most witness reports are that way, if what I learned in college psych is true. I didn’t want any trouble from the cops about not calling though, so I decided it’d be best to just report it and then get in bed. Looking back I try to place a moral sensibility in my past self and how I dealt with the murder. In all honesty I just called to save my own ass.
I stood up, reached for the phone and dialed 911. I simultaneously became aware of the dire need to relieve myself on the other end too. I crocked my head to one side and balanced the phone between my shoulder and ear and then unzipped my pants and sat down on the toilet. I asked the 911 operator lady to direct my call to the cops. She asked me what type of incident the call regarded. This really irritated me. I told her that I witnessed a murder. She immediately directed my call. I think I freaked her out with my calmness. I bet she wasn’t used to that. She probably would’ve been more comfortable with me screaming and crying. In the brief moment that I waited for my call to be directed, I squeezed out a massive load of liquidly diarrhea. Then an officer picked up and I pissed for probably the first five minutes of our conversation. I think I had to pee ever since I was waiting for the bus before the crack of dawn. I’m sure the officer could hear the river of a flow in the background, but I really didn’t care.
Here’s a rough account of my conversation with the officer, pretty far from verbatim, but its close enough. He sounded youngish but older than me. Maybe in his thirties. He had a fairly deep voice, somewhere between a tenor and a bass. I got the idea that he was probably pretty sexy.
“Hello there ma’am. If you will please describe the incident you witnessed, while trying to remain as calm as you possibly can so that we can accurately record the information you are providing us.”
“Okay. I was on the city bus. Two men got on the bus. They were arguing loudly in a language unfamiliar to me. One eventually stabbed the other, which killed him.”
“When did this occur?”
“It was around six a.m. I’d say.”
“Was this the incident on the corner of Maple and Fifth?”
“Um. That sounds right. I’m bad with street names. I know there’s a really old stone church on the corner with a statue of a pregnant Mary that is lit up at night.”
“Ma’am, do you know what time it is now?”
“It’s a quarter after 9.”
“Oh wow. Sometimes I lose track.”
“That incident got called in hours ago. You must have been the only actual witness though. Why didn’t you call in sooner, miss?”
I remember making a note that he switched from referring to me as “Ma’am” to “Miss” after I clearly let on that I responded pretty irresponsibly and lazily to the situation. His tone took on a slightly patronizing edge too. I didn’t try to change anything about the way I relayed the events though. I didn’t try to ingratiate myself into his good will, I had no energy for all that.
I didn’t reply immediately. I got distracted. I stood up to wipe which burned terribly. I looked at the tissue and it was covered in crusty blood. I wasn’t expecting my period, and I was on the pill so I knew there something not right. It shocked me a little. I think I managed to collect myself and respond fairly normally. Still it took me a minute, so it probably seemed sketchy.
“It’s complicated. I don’t have a phone. I really wasn’t feeling well and I had to walk home from where the driver pulled over. I guess I could’ve stopped at a gas station or something and borrowed their phone, but I just really felt like I needed to get home.”
While I explained myself I simultaneously was searching all through the bathroom for a hand mirror. I could’ve sworn I had one of those really magnified ones for popping zits and convincing yourself you have wrinkles in your early twenties and then watching yourself cry up close and what not. It was nowhere to be found. I briefly looked through my pig sty room, got flustered by the mess and gave up.
“Well it’s not my place to pry too much right now, but despite your state, it would’ve been better if you had contacted us immediately”
I went to the kitchen and searched around for a particularly shiny saucepan that one of us owned. It was at the bottom of the sink below a smelly stack of unwashed dishes. It was covered in dried up moldy pasta sauce. I started vigorously scrubbing the pan while trying to maintain a reasonably engaged tone in my responses to the officer.
“Yeah I know. I had a rough night. I was honestly struggling to think of much beyond my dire need lie down”
The conversation gets kind of blurry in my memory. I just remember the officer was trying to carry an objective “strictly the facts” tone while also riding me pretty hard about why I didn’t report the incident sooner. Still I think he knew I wasn’t an accomplice or involved in the murder in any way despite how poorly I defended myself. I think he felt kind of sorry for me. I eventually confessed that I was extremely intoxicated and couldn’t really handle the situation appropriately. It was too much for me to take in, I said. I wanted to play on his emotional capacity a little. I could tell that he wasn’t a total jack ass cop.
I got the pan nearly back to its original sheen. Scrubbing it actually felt really great. I got so into it while talking to that officer.
He wrapped up the exchange by informing me that I would need to come down to the station as soon as possible and give a more exact report. Otherwise I would most definitely be picked up by the cops and potentially arrested as a suspect. He asked if I had a means of transportation. I told him I’d find a ride to the station and get there as soon as I could. At the same time I stood in the middle of the kitchen, planted my feet as far apart as I could, squatted a little and shoved the pan between my legs to examine my lady parts. It looked like raw, bloody ground beef down there. It was horrible. Somehow I was more fascinated than freaked out by the grotesque state of my junk. I managed to get off the line with the officer without acting any more off-beat than I already had. I continued to examine myself and was just amazed by what looked like the visual onomatopoeia for the word trauma or battering or something of the sort. I really had no idea what went down the night before. I could barely even remember waiting for the bus at that point in the day. It was clear I had blacked out and I don’t think I’d even totally come to my senses by the time I called 911.
God. The last thing I wanted to do at that moment in time was bug one of my roommates to take me to the police station. I don’t even think Jeff was home anyhow, and there was no way I was going to ask Kate. I decided to call a cab.
I sank down on the floor and tried to recall what had happened that night. As hard as I tried, which wasn’t my best effort anyhow, I couldn’t remember a thing. My thoughts shifted non-sequentially to thoughts of childhood. (But I’m pretty sure the thought process is always in some sense sequential or connected).
I thought of my innocence, my pure-hearted eccentricity, my wild imagination. And how my father used to pretend to be Peter Pan. My bed was a ship and he’d lift me up and swing me gently back and forth, shifting his weight from one foot to another while impersonating the sounds of the wind.
What had I become? I felt pretty ashamed and nasty.
I somehow managed to find a level of composure, got myself off the floor, called a taxi and hopped in the shower. The hot water ran down my back and felt so good. But when it made it to my butt cheeks I screamed out in pain. I turned down the water to lukewarm and only stayed in long enough to wash off my body. I didn’t bother with my hair, even though it probably had some puke in it. I threw on some sweatpants and a tank top, pulled my hair back, freshened up my face a little, sprayed some stupid cotton candy scented body splash of my roommate’s down my shirt and walked to the kitchen. I grabbed a banana, a butter knife and a jar of store-brand peanut butter. I sat on the front door stoop for a minute or two and ate the banana, lathering each bite in peanut butter. The cab pulled up and the cabbie honked 3 quick consecutive times just before parking at the curb. I guess he didn’t see me. The honking flustered me.
I got in and almost immediately regretted using that spray. The taxi reeked of what smelled to me like mildew coated curry, with a hint of pine coming from the tree-shaped air freshener hanging from his rear-view mirror. I thought to myself “of course I had to be picked up by a dude with a turban. They always reek of curry, goddamnit!” I guess bad hangovers turn me into a racist. It smelled like the inside of my microwave after I’ve heated up some Indian take-out.
(Actually I often notice when people seem to play -out racial stereotypes and find it humorous. I know it’s bad. And I totally just lied when I blamed it on the hangover.)
The cotton candy scent floating up from my chest mixed with the smell of the cab was fucking me up something bad. A few minutes into the ride I had to ask him to pull over, because I thought I was going to puke. He consented with a firm admonishment against me vomiting in his vehicle. “This is my business lady”. The thought of puking all over his business made me chuckle for some reason. He told me to pay up and get out. I opened the door and shifted my legs in my seat to hover over the pavement outside and puked peanut-butter banana goop all over the curb. Then I looked over at the driver and apologized, informing him that I was only laughing at my own stupidity for getting into the shape I was in. Now I believe that really was the reason I was laughing. “But I really need to get to police station mister. The circumstances are fairly urgent.”
“Good God, lady. Fine. I’ll drive you the rest of the way.” He tossed a plastic bag back to me with a huge smiley face and the inscription “Thank You” below it. He warned me adamantly that he’d kick me out for real if I made a mess. Then he started giving me a fucking paternalistic lecture. “How a pretty young lady like you got herself so sick from drinking, I’ll never understand….You should take better care of yourself than that”.
“How do you know if I’ve been drinking?”
“I’m a cab driver lady.”
This time I held in my laughter because I wasn’t up for walking anymore that day. And as aggravating and presumptuous as his berating was, I liked the guy.
We eventually made it to the police station. I tipped the man pretty generously despite having the budget of an impoverished booze-hound. He wished me luck, told me to quit drinking and then sped off. I’d probably be a good conversation piece for the other cabbies or the dinner table. Or maybe it wasn’t anything all that new for him and he wouldn’t think of our encounter again.